Thursday, February 5, 2009

Selling Me

A little past 12am on a Thursday night, I am surrounded with resumé books and pages of notes along with all the Post-its(R) that have congregated around the edges of my monitor. With a point and a wink, the irony of ad majors crafting resumés to "sell themselves" has been pointed out to me on several occasions. And, while it's logical that adverting and marketing people should have the easiest time crafting these personal branding briefs -- I find that the subject of "me" hits a close to home to write about easily. Also why in-house ad agencies are so few and far between I suspect (Cutlip, Center, Broom 2006 agree).

Writing a resumé/ CV is naturally a very retrospective and writing intensive process -- finding just the right words to put just what you did over 4 months of work into one beautiful sentence. I can just feel the future HR director drooling over my dazzling use of 250 "Verbs with Impact" provided to me by the Office of Career Services. Aided, abetted, fled... wait, what?

But then there's the question that matters most, so what? Why do you (an employer) care that I: researched and maintained press lists and a policy maker database? More than just a list of my duties at Gap Inc. and degree from Suffolk, the role a good resumé is to tell a story about how my experiences thus far demonstrate just where I ought to be right now, working for you. If this were in ad industry terms it might be framed as 'The Big Idea," and in terms high school English class it could be "Spark Notes." Or, as a friend recently advised me, "applying for a job is not just about demonstrating qualifications and abilities, but showing that you're a proper fit for the position and that it's a proper next step for your career." Turns out such an assignment requires knowing yourself very well.

Yet, even for those who do, knowing yourself doesn't necessarily translate to a creative work plan the same that knowing Kellogg's does. For a while I sketched ideas about the "Jason Potteiger" brand, and started to break myself down in terms of brand image: product attributes, benefits and attitudes... (See Keller 1993). But, just about when I started to think how Potteiger Brand Jeans (PBJTM) would look, I realized that branding myself was bound to fail for a couple of reasons.

First, how I know and understand myself is always going to be different from how others perceive me. For example, after a haircut I might feel that I look like a million bucks, but in reality no one really notices, because it was just a trim. For a first impression does my odd sense of humor come off as fun or inappropriate? But further, our own point of view is plastic and changing, and brands are not as multidimensional as a person. Therefore my logo (if I had one), would seem to change its meaning to me as time went on. But, as I'm not Coca Cola, I don't think it would change and evolve along in my consumers minds as well.

Second, conceptually brands are not always about the truth -- while some stand for quality others are all fluff, adding artificial value to generic products. And yet, as much as it's said that resumés are about embellishing (I don't believe this), I want to present a picture of who I am, at my very best, not whatever brand of that I think an employer wants me to be.

Long story short, I started a blog (to accompany my portfolio and resumé) as a place for me to focus my ideas and share them. But more importantly, to show who I am as a person, not a brand.